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LAC to outsource library catalogue to U.S. firm

News broke this week that Library and Archives Canada intends to outsource AMICUS, Canada’s free national catalogue listing library holdings across the country, to a U.S.-based firm. The agency posted a notice proposing a sole-sourced contract with Online Computer Library Centre Inc., the world’s largest non-profit library cooperative.

According to LAC’s notice, AMICUS was developed in-house and is managed by a combination of staff from business areas of Library and Archives Canada as well as the Innovation and Chief Information Officer Branch. The new Web-based catalogue will help the library improve its offerings in the field of digital access.

Although the current system lists the LAC’s own holdings and those of more than 1,300 libraries across Canada, the Ottawa Citizen notes that some members of the librarian community view the move as a positive step in updating the outdated AMICUS system.

The Citizen reports:

France Bouthillier, director of the faculty of information studies at McGill University, said LAC had little choice but to replace the old-fashioned AMICUS system, which was developed in house by LAC more than two decades ago.

At the time it created AMICUS, Library and Archives Canada was the online catalogue leader in this country, Bouthillier said.

In those years, each library had their own little catalogue, she said. Now, it’s different. Everybody wants to have the same thing, to be able to share the bibliographic data about their resources.

Bouthillier applauded the choice of OCLC, which has more than two billion holdings in its aggregator WorldCat online catalogue and an interface that can switch among numerous languages.

It’s excellent news for Library and Archives Canada, she said. It means its collection will be more available in the world.

Meanwhile, NDP MPs have called on the federal government to intervene, arguing that “our history should not be contracted out to a U.S. company,” the Citizen reports.